“You can’t out train a bad diet.” – Matt Koch
Side Note: Damn Straight Matt, I’m restealing your website name for my own nefarious purposes! If anyone else is wondering what the hell I’m talking about, visit his website NutritionMadeFun.com and give him a follow: @nutritionmadefun ! #MakeNutritionGreatAgain
Just to be upfront: this is an idea I halfway fell into, halfway got training in from a bunch of different resources and other training programs. Though now that I think about it, that’s how the most effective programs are built, due to them being the most likely to have been born out of reason, evidence and experience. Such is the path of philosophy, and since philosophy deals with everything, and having a healthy body allows you to do so, it is high time to talk about the one investment that allows you to deal in every other investment. So let’s get right into the meat of the matter: pun intended!
Nutrition: quite literally the building blocks of the body. Every diet is designed to rebuild and energize you for whatever physical activity you’re persuing, some being more suited for certain tasks (example: a more fat/carb heavy meal before going on a century bicycle ride vs more protein heavy meals before a power lifting competition). Rather than go over sport or competiton styles of dieting, or some meal planning, I instead will lay out the building blocks of which you can tinker with and construct a diet that best suits your needs and change up to adapt to different situations. With that in mind, there are several diets I’ve come up with, only one of which has been the direct purpose of actually gaining weight.
Standard: The diet I normally follow, with no particular goal in mind. This cuts out the 3 ingredients I outlined in two articles, the most revised one being here: http://thegoddamnbacon.com/nutritional-cheat-sheet-the-ingredients-that-ruin-fast-food-revisited
In case you’re unable (or too lazy) to read that article, that mainly means limiting vegetable oils, added sugar, and refined wheat as much as you can. At the same time, the diet emphasizes healthy whole foods. I’ll break it down into the following list. Keep in mind that, since there is no complete source of one macro nutrient that excludes the other two:
Protein: Beef, Chicken, Pork, Duck, Lamb, even Bison every once in a while, though Venison is more flavorful. On the plant kingdom side: beans such as red kidney and pinto, and nuts such as peanuts and cashews. This includes leaner meats such as chicken breast and pork chops, fattier cuts such as roasted duck and delicious USDA Prime NY Strip, and more processed such as ground meats, sausages, european bacon, and salami! Turkey doesn’t make the list because I don’t really eat it, but I’m sure it’s a fine source of protein.
Fat: American Bacon (gotta mention it somewhere, and let’s be honest: the american variety has more grams of fat than protein), Cheese, Butter, Milk, and dark chocolate because why not. If your protein options are as open as above, you really don’t need to supplement extra fat, but these are good additions to any delicious diet!
Carbs of the fruit variety: pineapple, mango and more recently nectarines (for the ladies: look it up ;), along with apples, oranges, bananas and most berries. This isn’t an exhaustive list since I don’t have a variety of fruits I favor (also I hate throwing out spoiled produce), but you essentially can have any fruits you want as long as you don’t overdo it.
Carbs of the veggie variety: green beans, greens (collard, mustard, and whatever the hell the third one is that’s superior to kale on every level), sweet peas, corn, potatoes, carrots and occasionally oatmeal. Onioms and bell peppers I get fresh, but for the others I usually go with the canned variety: it keeps far longer than fresh and is more sterile (O.K., honestly I’ll forget it and it’ll rot in the fridge.), and there’s no room in my freezer that’s filled with about 200,000 kcal of meat and frozen pizza.
Carbs of the junk variety: sourdough bread (yes, specifically sourdough: the culturing process it does through does make it healthier for reasons I’m not going into right now), cheesecake, pizza (preferably if it’s on a thin sourdough crust), dark chocolate (again), potato/tortilla chips (I can hand make those too with the deep fryer) and Jack Link’s Sweet Hot Jerky! Grain based sides such as rice, grits and spaghetti (though spaghetti does have more nutrients) is on this list as well, given they’re essentially water sponges that usually serve as a vessel to deliver other flavors.
Condiments: no sugar ketchup (it’s just as good as the regular variety and given how little I actually use it vs how long it lasts, I’m O.K. paying a premium for it), mustard, olive oil mayo, barbecue sauce on occasion, hummus, full fat sour cream and salsa are the staple ones that come to mind. Keep in mind most of these are used sparingly. Guacamole isn’t bought often because if it’s relatively short shelf life, so I usually make it by mixing diced avocado and salsa.
Spices: Black pepper, bacon salt, white pepper, ground garlic, turmeric (it has some good nutrition effect when paired with black pepper, but I forget what it is), onion, chile powder, & paprika. Excepting the onion and paprika, all of those are made in house.
Alcohol: let’s face it, you know you wanna throw back a few after an arduous work day. All forms of beer, cider, wine and spirits are on the menu, though keeping in mind to, well, mind the cocktails that use a lot of simple syrup or fruit juice which therefore would contain a lot of sugar, such as a delicious tequila sunrise.
Supplements for Health: Doctor’s Best Magnesium Glycinate (200mg: it’s even Vegan!), Lysine(1,000mg), and half a zinc pill (which is half a 50mg pill: do the maths) with my morning coffee. Reason: You should get enough of these in the foods listed above, but it’s just good to have an excess of these in your body, and doesn’t cost as much. Zinc is good for your immune system, Lysine for your skin and hair to make you extra sexy and lubed up, Magnesium because it’s an important electrolyte that, while my own diet may contain enough, the majority of peoples’ don’t, so I take it as insurance. Glycinate is the type you want specifically: it is the easist to absorb, and doesn’t make you have emergency poop runs to the bathroom like the citrate variety does.
Supplements for working out: Creatine Monohydrate, Beta-Alanine, & CoQ10. Creatine because, unless you eat nothing but ribeyes, you don’t get as much as your muscles can store; what it does in a nutshell is give your mitochondria (your cellular batteries)more capacity to create more energy. Beta-Alanine is a double edge sword: the positive is that it scrubs the lactic acid from your muscles, which is what makes your muscles sore; the downside is that, since you’re essentially numbing the signals that your muscles are damaged, you run the risk of overdoing it, leading to sudden muscle failure (Happened to me a couple of times, once at a concert. The friend I went with had a good laugh at my expense).
Here’s where CoQ10 comes in (and the only reason I can spell it right is because I’m looking directly at the bottle): It’s purported effect is to lessen the damage caused by strenuous exercise. The reason I started using it is simply because I hate the feeling of ever being disabled, even if it’s a good sign that I did it right. The brand I use specifically is Qunol: it’s in the form that is the most easily absorbed by the body compared to the others (Ubiquinone if you’re curious). It does seem to have solved the double edge issue with Beta Alanine!
This is a general list: I’m sure I missed some of what I eat, but this is a good staple list to follow. You can mix these up in whatever variety you choose. Meal Scheduling: My general philosophy as far as eating goes is two fold. 1. Outside of dinner, only eat when you’re actually hungry, not when you see a delicious bag of loaded potato chips; this usually means, excepting an exercise day, I don’t eat outside of dinner. Exercise days usually involve 3 eggs, cheese, salsa, and a side of sausages, with greek yogurt and blueberries as dessert, sometimes with delicious, perky cacao nibs. At the time of this writing the go to brand is Chobani: theirs has the best protein to sugar ratio. Other sundry snacks are boiled eggs, salami, bacon and dark chocolate. As far as macros go, it’s mostly calories from protein and fat, with carbs added the more cardio I anticipate I’ll be involved in (such as if I’m going on a long bike ride). An example of a meal would be pork chops with a side of mixed white and brown rice topped with bacon cheese.
The results: Ended up dropping down from 235 pounds to about 205, with my waist line going from a comfortable 38 to a loose 36. Seeing the results starting to literally show through, specifically actually seeing some abs come through, I decided to see just how far I can take this, so I started a new fitness regimen I dubbed Project Six Pack. Along with a line of exercise, I also devised a diet called:
The Superior Cutting Diet:
This is what I came up with when I took on the challenge Project Six Pack: It gave me approximately 6 months to lose enough body fat to reveal the abs I worked on for the last 2 years. The diet came into effect with a little over 3 months to go, and was instrumental in helping me achieve said goal! It covers both the extreme side that I was willing to go, and still was good enough on the pallette not to force me to give it up, though there were quite a few things I missed after a while. Keep in mind that the following diets will include some soups of the above list while excluding others.
What’s allowed: all sources of protein and fat (that’s right: that bacon wrapped bavette strip steak you have on the grill with now? Still on the menu!). As far as the carbs go, the only ones on the fruit side of the list are the berries (blueberries, raspberries, etc.) and oranges: reason being they have the least amount of sugar in them. As far as veggies go, only the lowest calorie ones made the cut (GET IT!?): green beans, carrots, sweet peas and corn. And, as you can imagine, dark chocolate and jerky that has 2 grams or less of sugar added are the only junk carbs that are allowed. Examples of dinner: beer cooked brats grilled with onions and bell peppers, paired with peated scotch on the rocks. Another: meduim rare seared USDA Prime New York Strip with a side of bacon and cheese covered green beans, with a refreshing silver tequila with a spiked seltzer mixer and a lime!
The alcohol aspect is where things really get interesting, to me at least: most light beers and now spiked spaekling waters will list themselves as low calorie, though they’ll include the alcohol content in the total amount. Alcohol, in case you are unaware, burns at 7 calories a gram, with fat at 9 calories a gram and both protein and carbohydrates at 4 calories a gram for reference. The difference between alcohol and the others is that they’re used by the body in different aspects: protein as building blocks, and carbs for both expended and storing energy (along with giving your guts something to snack on), and fat to keep everything lubed up, your brain working at 100%, and so certain vitamins are absorbed.
Alcohol, on the other hand, is not stored: it is burned for energy while it’s in your system, and once your liver is done processing it, it is expelled. Therefore, as far as my theory goes, it isn’t the alcoholic content in whatever you’re getting hammered om, rather the added carbs and sugar alongside it, whether it’s the extra wheat in your hefeweizen, the grape juice in your Zinfandel, and the orange juice in your gin and juice that are the real culprits in that beer belly.
To test this theory, I eschewed all forms of beer and wine, and only had just spirits (Bourbon and tequila, naturally), and spiked sparkling waters to get my own buzz on, chiefly Truly’s , which only have 1 gram of sugar to them. They’re rated at 100 calories, but given the above information, only the gram of sugar would really count toward your waistline, bringing it’s effective caloric content at about 4 grams a can.
The results: weighing in at roughly 200 pounds at the start, after losing 25 pounds previously with the Standard Diet alongside the weight training program, I dropped down to an average weight of 172, with the lowest reading at 170 pounds even, over the course of a little over 3 months. Call me kooky, but alongside with achieving the goal of Project Six Pack, albeit by a very thin margin, I’d call the diet a success!
I did, however, have an epiphany near the end of this diet and that was on the different types of carbs: sugar, starches and fiber. Sugar is the stuff that gets burned very quickly, spikes your insulin levels, and gets stored as fat if not totally used up, while fiber either gets digested by gut bacteria or passes through your system for the most part undigested. Starches, which make up the remaining carbs not specifically listed on nutritional facts, are much more complex than simple sugars, meaning that while they eventually are broken down, they take a lot longer to digest, and therefore don’t spike your insulin levels nearly as much, nor are stored as fat as quickly. This gave me an idea for a modified slightly less restrictive diet to test out, the only problem being it’s mighty hard to lose weight you don’t even have anymore. My solution?
The Let’s Get Fat But Not Gross Diet:
With the goal being to get back to the test weight of 200 pounds but not end up as the pear shaped teenage 200 pounder I was, everything from the standard diet is back on the menu with a couple of changes: 1. Less of an emphasis on getting energy calories from fats and more from carbs which had the added benefit of proving empiracally that fat does not, in fact, make you fat, along with putting delicious chili dogs back on the menu. 2. A slight amount of overeating: with the other diets, you simply eat until you’re no longer hungry, which is usually before you’re full; with this diet, you’re eating at least until you get the feeling of fullness, even slightly over, since the idea is to oversupply calories to your body to be stored. 3. More emphasis on junk foods: keeping in mind you’ll still be going along the lines of the junk food list above, since you still want to keep as healthy a diet as you can. Basically this gives you free reign on your snack drawer whenever you feel the urge! And 4. You’re allowed 2 full on cheat days, which means fast food is back on the table! Two caveats to this: 1. Continue to exercise! You don’t want to lose the hard earned musculature, nor your figure; the goal is just to pack on some padding. With the same goal in mind: 2. Keep your protein intake up, since that will help achieve the above goals, even when you can’t exercise or stay active for whatever outside reason.
Why would you consider this diet? Aside from the possibility you’re as nuts as I am and want to try out different diets, you might be gaining weight for a movie role, trying to get your partner to leave you (no judgment here), or get in or out of some contest or situation that requires you to maintain a certain weight. This method should help you achieve said nefarious goals without sacrificing your health or fitness, and make it easier to shed the pounds when you no longer need them. With my goal in mind, the desired weight range was reached, again, in just over the 3 month time period I gave myself, and I won’t lie: it was actually difficult to regain nearly 30 pounds in such a relatively short time period; I actually resorted to eating Arby’s on one of my cheat days (never let it be said that I’m not committed to getting results for your benefit!)
Having achieved the goal of regaining all that extra weight just to lose it again, what is this diet I thought of?
The Laid Back Cutting Diet: Similar to the Superior Cutting diet in that, most days, it’s fairly strict in following it. What sets it apart from it is 1. Most carbs that are mostly starch are A.O.K., such as potatoes, corn tortillas, bananas, etc., whereas they aren’t on the former diet. 2. This one has cheat days, albeit more along the lines of a relaxed stance of what you’re allowed to ingest rather than a free for all at the local buffet and bar. So once again, I gave myself a 3 month window to test it out, the goal again being to drop as much weight and fat as possible. Example dish: seasoned ground beef tacos with cheese, anaheim peppers and salsa, with a bourbon spiked seltzer on the rocks. Another would be italian sausage loaded mash potatoes, with pepper jack cheese, thick cut bacon and jalapenos, with a slightly chilled Men’s Room Original Red!
Results so far: initially I had the same results as I did with the more stringent diet plan, dropping 10 pounds within a month. But then the losses quickly slowed, with my current weight plateauing at approximately 185 pounds. The interesting thing is that, while I was still 15 pounds from my lightest weight, most of my six pack is visible even at the heavier weight, and I actually dropped down another size as far as my waistline goes (this experimentation is getting expensive), bringing me somewhere between 30-32, whereas my old waist size was a comfortable 38, 40 at my heaviest, about 36 when I started all of this.
My takeaway from this is two fold: 1. Since I more or less kept up my weight training regimen, only falling off a few weeks due to other projects, I continued to gain muscle mass during the time period I was on the Get Fat Diet, and at bare minimum maintained it during the Strict Cutting Diet, only putting on more with the last one. This leads to 2. What you eat may make even more of a difference than strict training, though that’s still the other side of the health coin: even when I was doing the Accidental Intermittent Meal Planning and not working out, I not only retained my figure, but my strength as well, slipping back into my regular routine as if I hadn’t let off. One final factor that might have made a difference is that, due to time constraints and riding conditions, I had to drop the cardio part pf my exercise regimen, which was cycling about 15 miles round trip, though a 3+ mile walk to and from the local bar 3 nights a week would’ve picked up some of the slack. So I’ll be taking that back up for a month or so, and see just how much of the extra weight is pure fat as opposed to muscle, of which I estimate to be about 5 pounds.
So keep this link handy and stay tuned: Project Six Pack Part 2 is on!